7 remote work secrets worth sharingWe all have times we need to work someplace other than the office. I've done it traveling for work, crunching on a project over a weekend, or stuck at home by icy roads. The last six weeks have been different. When my mother's health started to decline, I was able to temporarily relocate 650 miles away without a worry about work productivity.

This is something I could never have done so seamlessly without our Heads Up Display (HUD) unified communications (UC) software enabling me to join the ranks of Free Range Humans.  

With the caveat that I've probably got nothing on those of you who worked from your home office for years or roam a huge region, here's what I've learned so far.

my 7 secrets for remote work success

1) Make the most of your phone system

I haven't seen the phone on my desk since August 14, and I really don't miss anything except maybe my snazzy Jabra wireless headset. That's because any business phone system worth paying for should bring so much more to the table these days. 

When I joined Fonality late last year, it wasn't the first time I'd used a VoIP phone system. However, the new generation of cloud VoIP – including UC – is vastly superior to anything I'd used before. 

Being able to see who's available to IM, share a screen to go over a document, or drag and drop files someone needs in a jiffy has made it easy to get work done without being in the same location. Our HUD Mobile app has been incredibly useful as well. This has kept me accessible and connected in places where it didn't make sense to have my laptop running, like in transit to doctor appointments. 

2) Go beyond old-school BYOD

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been making it easier for me to keep connected in short spurts for years thanks to being able to get my work email on my phone and to text with colleagues. More recently, webmail and email apps made it possible to add my desktop computer and tablet to the mix. In fact, I wrote the first pass at this post from a waiting room on my personal Windows tablet using my trusty Bluetooth keyboard. My how far things have come! 

3) Make sure your mobile data plan is up to snuff

Public Wi-Fi isn't usually terribly speedy or secure, and I'm here to tell you hospital Wi-Fi barely deserves the title. It's also not terribly VoIP friendly because you can't count on enough bandwidth, and you can bet they won't have Quality of Service (QoS) set up to ensure call quality. 

Thankfully, my cellphone plan includes a whopping 30GB of shared data and rollover to boot. Despite almost two weeks working from my mother's hospital room, I never worried about running over, even when I needed to download large presentations. Plus, most work activities just don't soak up that much. For example, I noticed running HUD demos all day at a tradeshow earlier this year and participating recently in a live webinar each barely made a dent in my data.

4) Take charge everywhere you go

You can't always count on having access to an outlet when your remote work goes beyond working from your home office. Portable power banks are an absolute essential. If you don't have one, pick one up the next time you're at your favorite retailer or put that Amazon Prime membership to good use.

I don't recommend the bargain basement variety you see for $5 or $10. They don't typically hold enough to fully charge a larger battery like my Samsung Galaxy S5, much less a tablet. Those cheapies also don't tend to last as long. Spend about $20-$40 for as many milliamps (mAh) as you can get in a shape and size that suits you. I've got an ultra slim flat backup battery I carry in my purse along with a retractable cable. I also keep spares that aren't as purse-friendly in my laptop bag and in the car. These are largely a pre-emptive strike against changing bags or just forgetting to recharge after heavy use. 

5) Don't forget to accessorize

Our HUD softphone and mobile app have been indispensable, but a good pair (or three) of earbuds with mic can't be beat when you need to spend a lot of time on the phone or on a video conference. I've got a pair stashed in my purse, laptop bag, and console of my car. (The musician-style monitor earbuds I bought a few months ago to block out office background noise stay at my desk in Texas. But that's another post!)

Even when you aren't visible across the hall, coworkers can see whether you're available with Employee Presence.
  Employee Presence

6) Make a point to keep in touch

One big change for me has been making sure not to fall off the radar. This is especially important when working some non-traditional hours. Technology has come to the rescue a couple of ways here, too. 

Employee Presence has become one of my favorite features. I can't just meerkat over the top of my cube to see who's around anymore! That green Available means I have a great shot at efficiently getting a question answered or just asking how things are going. The flip side is that I can avoid wasted time calling someone's desk who's in a meeting all day, and coworkers can tell at a glance if I'm online.

But perhaps the most important aspect is making sure people know your schedule, what you're working on, and that you're as much part of the organization as you would be onsite. Find the ways that work the best for you and your team. Sometimes that's through chat, a phone call, video conference, or even an email. Don't forget to keep your virtual water cooler stocked, too! We're social creatures after all.

7) Be flexible

Working remotely isn't just a change in geography. It's a mental shift, too. Be prepared to adapt your business communication methods. In particular, be more conscious of which channels you use to replace conversations you'd have in person if you were in an office. Video collaboration is one great way, although sometimes a phone call will do. Chat/email/text, probably not so much.

Being flexible also means realizing not everyone is just popping into the kitchen for leftovers come lunchtime. They might leave the building like you used to, so maybe don't pack all your calls over the lunch hour. And yes, you're going to miss out on a few fun office activities. The important thing is being where you need to be at this point in your life. Whether that's staying by an aging parent's side during a health crisis or staying with your company when your spouse gets offered a job in another city, it's all worth it.

Did I miss any?

"Drinking the Kool Aid" and tech geek biases aside, I absolutely could not have stayed as productive as I have without the things on this list.

The combination of company culture, great phone features, UC, and some of my favorite gadgets have made working remotely easier than I ever thought possible. I'll be grateful for that for many, many weeks to come.

Got any additional tips as I look ahead week seven and beyond? Leave a comment below!

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